05/18/2002 02:52 am ET
Giambi trots in the Babe's footsteps
Duplicates Sultan of Swat's previously unequalled feat
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- It was the game that wouldn't end. That is, until Jason Giambi ended it in the most dramatic of fashions.
The Yankees and Twins played a 14-inning, 5:45 marathon on Friday, and just when it looked like Minnesota had taken control of the contest by scoring three runs in the top of the 14th, the Yankees refused to call it a night.
Shane Spencer led off the bottom of the 14th with a single, and after Alfonso Soriano flew out to left field, Derek Jeter singled to put runners at the corners, bringing Bernie Williams to the plate representing the tying run. Williams, who already had hit two home runs -- including a game-tying solo shot in the bottom of the ninth -- worked a walk against Twins reliever Mike Trombley, bringing Giambi to the plate with the chance to be the hero.
"I don't know how many times I've been asked, 'When is Giambi going to have his defining moment?'" said manager Joe Torre. "I said to Mel [Stottlemyre], 'This could be that defining moment.' He didn't make us wait too long."
Giambi launched the first pitch he saw from Trombley into the wet Bronx night, bringing what was left of the 39,470 to their feet, giving the Yankees a 13-12 win. The homer, which landed in the right-field bleachers, was Giambi's ninth of the season.
"I had taken a lot of first pitches tonight, so I was looking for that first-pitch heater," Giambi said. "I was just looking to drive the ball and keep the rally going, and I ended up getting it out of the ballpark."
Giambi became just the second Yankee to hit a game-winning, walk-off grand slam with New York trailing by three runs. The other? Babe Ruth, who did it on Sept. 24, 1925, against the Chicago White Sox.
"Any time you hear your name mentioned among these guys, it's exciting," Giambi said when informed of his newest link to the Bambino. "You dream about it as a kid, hitting that grand slam. It was exciting to even have that opportunity."
The Yankees had many chances to win the game in extra innings, stranding nine baserunners in the four extra frames before the 14th. The closest the Yankees came to winning was in the 13th, when Giambi was thrown out at the plate after he tried to score from first on Jorge Posada's double.
"Everybody in our lineup had a chance to win the game in extra innings, and we couldn't do it," Torre said. "When Jason got thrown out at the plate, I don't know how many people thought he was going to get another chance to swing the bat."
But when Giambi stepped to the plate with the stage set for heroics, he didn't disappoint.
"It was a hell of a war. Our guys played, their guys played. They just got us at the end," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "You're just looking for trouble when you get to that part of the Yankees lineup. They can do a lot of damage to you. We staved off a lot of jams through the course of that game. If it keeps getting like that, they'll eventually get to you, and they got to [us]."
"We had a lot of chances, and it gets frustrating," said Robin Ventura. "You just keep grinding, and fortunately we got another chance. Now it's time to go home and sleep."
What was Giambi thinking as he rounded the bases?
"Thank God the game is over," said Giambi. "It was such a battle today. Rain, sleet, snow, wind -- it was everything out there. Both teams never quit. It was like a PONY League game out there; you knew that whoever had the last at-bat was going to win. It was an unbelievable game to be a part of."
Mark Feinsand covers the Yankees for MLB.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.